Have we talked about Oak Wilt on our land? Large patches of red oaks are losing their leaves and bark, becoming sculptural sentinels. This bothered me at first. I love the oaks, and it felt like I was losing something. But the changing landscape has grown on me, both as it is and as it may become. .
And the sunlight loves the change. Patches of bright blue open skies above are mirrored below with sun dappled eager young leaves and grasses, as the formerly rather intractable shadowy buggy brambly woods reveal their curves and their intentions.
Plus, it’s making paths and openings without mechanical and human intervention … perhaps we will chose a spot on which to build? Regardless, it’s lovely to see the sunlight pour through the once-dark woods, illuminating the oaken bones and backlighting the emerald understory, bursting forth into the sudden sunlight.
The landscape grows and changes as do all things, and we … we are Here For It.
Inside the box
Sweet Peppers – Kristin says peppers are her favorite crop today.
Jalapeños – if they have that “checking” on the skin, they’re extra spicy. Remove the seeds to tone them down.
Zucchini – you won’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.
Cabbage – we didn’t get enough of the large boxes back to use them this week (ahem ahem ahem) so these beasts challenged some laws of space.
Onions – two of ’em
Carrots – more genuine babies. Agricultural Mad Scientists have discovered that you can magically stunt carrots growth through an intensive canopy of vigorous weeds. Weeding baby carrot plants is … something. They share the bag with:
Broccoli Side Shoots aka Baby Broccoli FER CUTE
Cherry tomatoes – a quart of em
Salad Turnips – just eat one like an apple; amaze your friends.
Tomatoes – These were very difficult to Tetris into safe nestlings within the boxes. Eat the ripest ones fist – regardless of color, you can feel a ripe tomato’s slight overall give in the skin when cupped.
Italian Basil – it loves tomatoes
Corn – still sweet, still juicy – but less tender. I continue to relish it raw, but this is also good in dishes in which you slice it off the cob and use … like the corn chowder Kristin made last night. (sans any potatoes)
This week marked the beginning of tomato preservation season – when the tomatoes with cracks and bruises and bites are salvaged to be smoked and sauced and salsaed. The Frankensmoker was disassembled from the “temporary test” location where it sat for several years, and rebuilt in a more convenient location, new and improved.
In other news, our former WWOOFer friend Madball hit the road after two weeks on the farm – but not before helping us forage plenty of mushrooms, set up for two markets, and knock out the final roofing of the processing area, at last. Now we can pack veggies protected from the rain and sun for the first time! How civilized we feel.
The deer are on an absolute rampage in the brassica row overnights … destroying fall broccoli and cauliflower and brussels sprouts like some kind of demonic plague. I might be biased. But no, I think that these deer are objectively evil, and I’m hopeful that this week our exorcist friend with the deer rifle will banish at least one from this realm because this carnage hurts our souls to see.
on the Twelfth Week Season my farmer gave to me:
OK I’m not actually going to do all the lyrics and make a song of it, my fingers have written a silly check that my brain cannot cash. But here’s what you’ve gotten:
a melon – most likely a watermelon, although two lovely cantaloupes went out as well. Kristin picks the ones she deems most likely to be delicious, based on the arcane witchery of divinitory melon dowsing. (If you are saddened because you really wanted a watermelon, but got a different variety, let us know and we will try to hook you up next week if possible.)
Sunflower Shoots – the most popular microgreen
Brussels Sprouts Plant Tips with Broccoli Bonus Bag – use the tender topped plants like kale! We cut these off to stimulate the plants to grow the desirable sprouts later in the season.
1/2 Dozen Ears of Sweet Corn – I never loved sweet corn until I ate it fresh from the field. Oh my. Yours was harvested this morning … go!
Zukes – the workhorses of CSA cooking
Cukes – these make great teethers, if you or an infant you know has teeth coming in. Also, they are food.
Two Tomatoes – one less pretty than the other. The best available from our beleaguered plants. They are looking a bit better though … hopefully the warmth lasts and they continue.
Cherry Tomatoes – I’d take these out and make sure none have split; they were all intact at harvest this morning, but some were ripe enough that they split their skin afterward.
It was a fruitful week and yeah I’m intending that pun, without apology. It rained some and the wild mushrooms finally started popping. We hunted wild cherries and picked runty weird pears and offered false salvation to the bird-menaced apples and juiced buckets of grapes gathered from our neighbors at Quiet Meadows.
The garden was productive, too. I think one of the many cycles we go through on this farm is the one where in early summer our focus is on the failures; the weeds that got away, the stunted crops and the sparse pickings and the ones that got devoured en terra utereo,
But then, right when we might teeter on the verge of psycho-spiritual collapse, the ABUNDANCE kicks us in the asses and we can’t overlook the sweet scent of successes.
OK, so the full-sized tomato crop is kind of messed up this year, and that is hard to swallow after last year’s perfection combined with the expectations we couldn’t help but harbor (secretly I’m still hoping they turn it around … any day now). Sure, the deer are making like brontosauruses amongst the dino kale, and the Vole Collective has masterminded a record number of heists, eliminating an impressive array of baby plants. And the weeds, and the drought, and inflation and dystopia and bears; oh my.
But … the melons are candy cannonballs and the sweet corn is off the hook … I tasted a cob this morning and for the first time really understood the evolution of corn to syrup to a can of high frutose. The cabbage worms aren’t inflicting their usual frass-holeness, the cherry tomatoes are lovely, the winter squash sure seek poised to achieve greatness. The kids are learning and exploring and clearly our finest output, and this ridiculous lifestyle we live is shaping us, providing us with the daily bread of Meaning.
The phrases “Look up!” and “look out!” are sadly tarnished with negative and fearful connotations, but I try to remember their more positive reminders as well. Look out of our heads, out of our dusty concepts and grim narratives and limited framings. Look up from the problems at hand, unbend and look up at the trees, the sky, the sun, the bigger picture, the vista buena. Pardon my French, but life is fucking beautiful, and if – when – I’m not awestruck, I know I’m not really paying attention.
There is a lot of love and sunshine in the boxes this week, I hope it can be tasted.
Inside Box 11
Microgreen Mix – eat it soon; in the dim morning light I added a tray of amaranth & kale that was kind of sad, and we don’t think it will keep well for long. Or it might even be grody? We thought about tossing them all but it was already all boxed and I think it looks really good still overall … do what you must. (PS – yes we’ll reuse the containers if you return them.)
Sweet Corn – so JUICY. Might be our best-ever sweet corn year. As usual I will promote eating at least one ear raw and without any butter or salt. I love them both, but they’re usually only required because the corn one usually gets is stale and sad. This corn is magic and will put sparkle in your spirit and add 10 points to your attributes, I think, so open one up and eat it right now please. After that … eat more? The sooner you get to it the better – once picked, the sugars start converting to starch. You can cut it off the cobs and cook it with zucchini and peppers, maybe a few tomato chunks. That’s what Kristin likes to do and she knows stuff.
Zucchnis and Summer Squash – the versatile unsung heroes of CSA boxes
Cucumbers – it’s been a good run but it’s coming to the end.
a Melon – one of a variety of types we grew this year, carefully chosen for most-likely ideal ripeness.
a tomato or two – the big tomatoes are problematic this year; blossom end rot, cracking and splitting skin, and some annoying invisible caterpillar are taking their toll. These are the survivors, the chosen ones, blessed by the gods and ushered through the myriad tomato trials and tribulations to arrive by some miracle onto your table.
Cherry Tomatoes – these grow out in the field, not in the greenhouse – and for whatever reasons, they’re happy and fine. Not too shabby.
Salad Turnips – these are the mild kind. You can even eat em like apples! But if that’s still too “turnipy,” know that the flavor is concentrated in the skin, so peeling them makes them super mild. Roasting is good too.
Hot Peppers – Jaleneos & Hot Wax – Don’t get confused: here are the hot ones:
Sweet Peppers – Purple Bell Islander, Glow (orange-trending)
We have entered cherry-stained fingers season on the farm. The chokecherries are ripe and abundant, the small trees out in the Sterling Barrens heavily laden with them. There’s a learning curve to be navigated – it’s been years since we last had so many to work with, and we’d forgotten how to best extract the juice from them, which made for a late night and a lot of mess and stains as we reinvented the cherry-juicing wheel. They’re a hassle, but worth the effort – the tart flavor makes for a complex tasty jelly. We’re hoping to get back out into the Barrens later this week for more, which should be a bit easier to work with now that we are reoriented to the Way of the Cherry.
In similar efforts, the Elderberry bush we planted a few years ago put out an abundant harvest – Kristin watched carefully to time it just right; too soon and the berries are toxic, a little too late, and the birds will have stolen your hoard. Her vigilance yielded an impressive harvest of berry in clusters, which I picked off the stems one by one, a pleasantly productive way to pass a lovely screen-porch evening.
The rodents ate well, their numbers diminished only slightly by our efforts to keep them from devouring every tender seedling that we put out in the field. The drought is also doing well, with only a couple misty days and sprinkles to bother it. It’s been a challenging year for sure, with hugely reduced helpers and available time (two kids is more than double the work, at this point). There are times when it feels stressful. I remind myself that that’s ok to feel anxious, or experience our efforts as a struggle.
Sometimes, it is a struggle – no need to pretend otherwise. But it’s a struggle that we enjoy, filled with problems are are lucky to have.
And we get to eat such rewarding meals amongst it all. Hope you’re enjoying your veggies, too.
What’s Inside Box 10?
Radish Microgreens – the stems are especially zippy. Awesome in tacos, sandwiches, etc.
Green / Purple Sweet Peppers
Cherry Tomato Medley
Cucumbers – slicers & picklers
Italian Basil – if you clip the bottom of the stem and put in a vase / glass of water, it will keep nicely on the countertop. Don’t refrigerate … basil tends to turn black when it’s chilly.
Zucchini / Summer Squash / Patty Pan Squash
Eggplants (Italian & Asian)
Melon ( either Sarah’s Choice, Hannah’s Choice (both cantaloupes), Arava (green fleshed yellow skinned tropical, or that kind we still can’t remember the name of)
Potatoes(Red, White & Blue) – they have a cosmetic skin condition that won’t affect flavor.
Yeah, it’s that week again – 9 weeks through the 18 week season. Can you eat all that is still coming? Or can we even continue filling boxes for you? Stay tuned!
This week winter crept closer. Normal people probably don’t notice. It feels just like summer, after all. We went swimming in the river and got almost sunburned and the tomatoes have only just started to ripen! Surely it is some kind of mental disorder making me type such foreboding nonsense? Well, my egg is no doubt a bit scrambled, but the slide toward woodstove heat and killing frosts has come and those who live close to the ground up here in the northwoods can sense the subtle but definite change.
It’s still a ways away, of course, and awareness of the inexorable approach occupied only fleeting moments of awareness in a week of long days of eternally sunny Now.
In the Barrens, the blackberry harvest was meager this year due to the timing of the drought – however, it looks like the wild cherries are abundant to an extent we haven’t seen for four years. The chokecherries weren’t quite ripe but are on the cusp – and we discovered a new species of wild cherry we had never found before; Prunus pumila, the Sand Cherry. Larger and lower, they ripen sooner; we made a test batch of jelly and it was delicious! Looking forward to an abundance of wild cherry jelly, rather than mourning the absence of blackberry jam.
The lobster mushrooms are popping, and we hope that the rain we finally had this weekend (over an inch over two days – first time for months!) will prompt the chicken of the woods to come out as well.
On the farm, the melons are ripening, and the weeds are going to seed. A couple of abandoned rows have been filled with towering, ridiculously lush weeds; today we discovered we had forgotten to turn off the irrigation in those rows, and so have been giving the lambs quarter and ragweed therein luxurious spa treatment daily waterings for weeks now. Coexisting is one thing, this was just silly.
The rain came just in time – even with daily irrigation, the crops were showing signs of stress – the inch we got should keep them happy for a few days.
Deer are jumping the fence again with increasing appetite, the rodents continue their depredations of the south central field in spite of losing a few comrades to our carefully-laid traps. We haven’t fixed a couple of leaky junctions in the irrigation hoses because the resultant puddles have brought leaping green frogs to the field and we like having them around. There are still almost no mosquitoes around, and the biting flies retreated with the end of the last hear wave. Generally, there seems to be little insect pest presence in the field this year – although the mammals are working hard to make up for it. At least the ones that eat chickens seem to have moved along; our Squad ranges freely all day every day again, learning to find seasonal sustenance in their surroundings (from wild foraging to begging from the most susceptible humans).
It’s a Good Life full of Good Problems to Have, and I’m so aware of how lucky we have been to have found a way to sustain ourselves while living this lifestyle, as a family, among friends and forces of nature, in a place with room for a garden and with time to for us to grow it, and share it with you …
inside Box Nine
With melons taking up so much space, we switched to larger boxes! (insert this reminder here about being careful not to rip the tabs when you flatten your boxes ahem yes).
Melons – two of either Sarah’s Choice, Hannah’s Choice (both cantaloupes), Arava (green fleshed yellow skinned tropical), Torpedo (long yellow with crisp pale flesh), and some other one we can’t remember the name of right now. Every box has one melon that should be perfectright now – ripe and delicious, and one melon that is at least pretty darn alright. Try to sniff them and figure out which the ideally ripe one is and eat it as soon as possible. Or at least refrigerate it!
Beans or Cherry Tomatoes – the beans are ending and the tomatoes are beginning; this week some boxes will get cherry tomatoes while others get beans.
Two Eggplants – Italian and Thai or two of the same
Green Peppers – or maybe a purple one. But it’s basically a green pepper.
Carrots – The weeds in the carrot row got rowdy, and the drought meant we couldn’t thin them out because they were cemented into the parched ground. Think of it this way – they aren’t stunted, they’re True Baby Carrots, not big carrots tumbled and ground down into little nubs like at the store.
Broccoli – these plants have been a little bit depressed about the drought but they’re pretty emotionally resilient vegetables.
Zucchini – yes
Cucumber – indeed
Micro Mix – kale, amaranth, broccoli, red cabbage, and radish
Sunflower Shoots – back by popular demand
and on and on and on and on and on the river flows